Coffin of 19th century soldier found in Turkey strains ties between Russia and Poland
Culture Minister Numan Kurtulmuş said Poland demanded the return of the coffin as the officer was of Polish origin, but Russia was resisting this because the soldier died fighting in the Russian imperial army.
“The Russian side said there was no such country as Poland when the military officer died. The land of Poland was part of the Russian Empire at the time so they said the dead soldier was a Russian subject,” Kurtulmuş said during a special meeting at the Turkish Parliament.
He added that the Russian side did not demand to return of the coffin to Russia but requested the soldier’s burial in a Christian cemetery in Ardahan.
“The man was Polish. His family is living in Poland. We are trying to solve the problem without causing disagreements between two countries,” Kurtulmuş said.
The coffin hit headlines in Turkey after it was unearthed on April 26, 2017 during excavations to lay the foundation of a construction project in Ardahan.
The soldier inside, who had a long beard and was dressed in full military regalia, was identified as Lt. Col. Karl Karlovich Rjepetsky, a member of the 78th Navaginsky regiment of the 20th infantry division of the 1st Caucasian Army Corps.
Rjepetsky’s remains were subsequently put under protection at the nearby Kars Museum.